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Phlebotomist David Sagae handles a vial of saliva at an Intermountain Healthcare COVID-19 mobile testing site outside of Orem Community Hospital in Orem on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020.

Kristin Murphy, KSL file

4,597 more COVID-19 cases, 29 deaths reported Thursday in Utah

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Updated - Jan. 7, 2021 at 4:26 p.m. | Posted - Jan. 7, 2021 at 1:07 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's number of COVID-19 cases has increased by 4,597 on Thursday, with 29 more deaths reported, according to the Utah Department of Health.

Seventeen of those deaths occurred before Dec. 20, according to the health department. The state medical examiner's office investigates each death to confirm that the deaths were caused by COVID-19, which can include reviewing medical records or autopsies and can lead to delays in final determinations, the health department said.

The health department estimates there are 53,597 active cases of COVID-19 in Utah. The rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 2,952, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period is now 32.7%.

The new numbers indicate a 1.6% increase in positive cases since Wednesday. Of the 1,790,189 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 16.6% have tested positive for the disease. The number of total tests conducted increased by 22,207 as of Thursday, according to state data. Of those, 15,554 were tests of people who had not been tested previously for COVID-19.

A total of 68,030 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Utah, including 67,063 first doses and 967 second doses, health department data shows. A total of 157,925 vaccine doses have been shipped to Utah so far, though health officials note that there is a data reporting delay of up to seven days from when doses are shipped to the state, administered to patients, and reported to the health department.

There are 537 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in Utah, including 187 in intensive care, state data shows. About 87% of Utah's intensive care unit beds were filled as of Thursday, including about 87% of ICU beds in the state's 16 referral hospitals. About 55% of non-ICU hospital beds are filled, state data shows.

The 29 deaths reported on Thursday were:

  • A Cache County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
  • A Davis County woman who was over the age of 85 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
  • A Davis County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
  • A Davis County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died
  • A Davis County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was hospitalized when he died
  • A Davis County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
  • An Iron County woman who was between the ages of 25 and 44 and was not hospitalized when she died
  • A Millard County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when he died
  • Two Salt Lake County men who were between the ages of 65 and 84 and were not hospitalized when they died
  • Two Salt Lake County men who were between the ages of 45 and 64 and were hospitalized when they died
  • A Salt Lake County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
  • A Salt Lake County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
  • A Salt Lake County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when she died
  • Two Salt Lake County women who were over the age of 85 and were residents of a long-term care facilities
  • Two Salt Lake County men who were between the ages of 65 and 84 and were residents of long-term care facilities
  • A Salt Lake County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
  • A Utah County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
  • A Wasatch County woman who was over the age of 85 and was hospitalized when she died
  • A Washington County man who was over the age of 85 and was not hospitalized when he died
  • A Washington County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was hospitalized when he died
  • A Washington County woman who was over the age of 85 and was a resident of a long-term care facility
  • A Weber County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was hospitalized when he died
  • A Weber County woman who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was not hospitalized when she died
  • A Weber County man who was between the ages of 65 and 84 and was not hospitalized when he died
  • A Weber County man who was over the age of 85 and was a resident of a long-term care facility

Thursday's totals give Utah 297,317 total confirmed cases, with 11,578 total hospitalizations and 1,359 total deaths from the disease. A total of 242,361 Utah COVID-19 cases are now estimated to be recovered, according to the health department.

According to Jess Gomez, associate director of media relations for Intermountain Healthcare, 1,330 Utahns died due to COVID-19 in 2020, making it the third leading cause of death in the state, behind cancer and heart disease.

There is not a COVID-19 news conference scheduled for Thursday. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox is scheduled to provide an update at a news conference at 11:30 a.m. Friday, according to his office.

Hospitals 'starting to fill back up again'

Earlier Thursday, Intermountain Healthcare physician Dr. Eddie Stenehjem gave an update on how the pandemic is currently affecting his hospital system and how the vaccine rollout is going.

Stenehjem said the recent uptick in case counts and test positivity rates is "exactly what we expected" following the Christmas and New Year's holidays, but that it's straining hospital systems regardless.

"We had hoped that our hospitalizations would have come down even more (before the holidays), gotten down to a lower level, and then we would have more room to accommodate this surge," Stenehjem said. "Unfortunately, that didn't really happen. We did have a little reprieve, got some of the patients out of the ICU and the floors, but now we're just starting to fill back up again."

Utah considers its ICUs to be "functionally full" at 85% capacity, which the state is currently exceeding.

Stenehjem also said the state's high test positivity rate likely indicates a need for more people to be tested. "That tells us that the community transmission rate is sky-high," he said, "and it tells us that we're probably under-testing. If we're having that many people positive, we really need to be testing more people to get a better handle on what's happening with this epidemic here in the state of Utah."

Responding to concerns that coronavirus vaccines are being given to employees who are not frontline health care workers, Stenehjem explained that the vaccine was also administered to support staff and people who keep the hospitals running.

"That includes all health care workers," he said. "It's to ensure that the health care infrastructure is stable." The vaccine was available to workers like lab staff, billing personnel and custodians as well as frontline workers, he said. "People that are not patient-facing, but make sure that our health care networks can function and allow us to take care of patients."

The two vaccines approved for widespread use in the United States, manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, were first made available to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. It will soon be available to workers in industries deemed essential, beginning with public school teachers.

Contributing: Graham Dudley, KSL.com

Methodology:

Test results now include data from PCR tests and antigen tests. Positive COVID-19 test results are reported to the health department immediately after they are confirmed, but negative test results may not be reported for 24 to 72 hours.

The total number of cases reported by the Utah Department of Health each day includes all cases of COVID-19 since Utah's outbreak began, including those who are currently infected, those who have recovered from the disease, and those who have died.

Recovered cases are defined as anyone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 three or more weeks ago and has not died.

Referral hospitals are the 16 Utah hospitals with the capability to provide the best COVID-19 health care.

Deaths reported by the state typically occurred two to seven days prior to when they are reported, according to the health department. Some deaths may be from even further back, especially if the person is from Utah but has died in another state.

The health department reports both confirmed and probable COVID-19 case deaths per the case definition outlined by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. The death counts are subject to change as case investigations are completed.

For deaths that are reported as COVID-19 deaths, the person would not have died if they did not have COVID-19, according to the health department.

Data included in this story primarily reflects the state of Utah as a whole. For more localized data, visit your local health district's website.

More information about Utah's health guidance levels is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-health-guidance-levels.

Information is from the Utah Department of Health and coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts. For more information on how the Utah Department of Health compiles and reports COVID-19 data, visit coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts and scroll down to the "Data Notes" section at the bottom of the page.

Jacob Klopfenstein

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